Facing a massive lawsuit brought against it by the Nigerian government, cigarette maker British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) knows exactly what to do: roll out the Corporate Social Responsibility. Since Nigeria's federal government filed to seek reimbursement for 5.3 trillion Nigerian Naira (about US$ 43.5 billion) it has spent treating sick smokers, BATN has donated a fleet of Ford Ranger trucks to the Nigerian Customs Service, boasts that it has pumped $300 million into the local economy and that it has 1,000 "model farms" in tobacco-growing areas. As part of the puffery, BATN ran advertisements around Nigeria featuring a 98 year farmer old named Amos Adedigba praising BATN by saying, "Sixty years is a long time to maintain a relationship. I have been able to give my children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren a good life, education and I am very proud of that." But when interviewed about the ad, Mr. Adedigba told Nigeria's The Nation newspaper, "BAT cheated me. I heard they used the advert all over Nigeria and even in America, yet I was only paid N40,000" (about US$328). Adedigba also alleged that the tobacco industry cheats farmers over the price of tobacco leaves. The Nation also reported that most Nigerian tobacco farmers actually live in squalor, and Nigerian public health advocate Seun Akioye states that BATN's claims of socially responsible farming are false, that tobacco farmers really live in "debt bondage" to tobacco companies, and that tobacco farming leaves soil unusable for growing food or other crops.
By Anne Landman on December 03, 2007